Sometimes the best lessons our parents can teach us are not the ones they tell us but the ones they show us.
For the past seven months I’ve been watching my mother’s marriage fall apart. It’s a very sad thing to have to witness my mother’s pain and unhappiness. She’s been with her husband for ten years. I was already in college when they married but this man has been the only father figure my younger brother has ever known. As I’ve watched this scenario slowly disintegrate I’ve been my mother’s main source of support. The most ironic thing about this is the fact that she was not there during the course of my own relationship. She refused to attend my wedding and she was definitely not the person for me to reach out to when I went through my divorce.
Watching their situation unfold is like watching very bad reality tv. It’s drama filled. Endless tit for tat. They repeatedly hurt each other as though they haven’t spent the last ten years building a life together. There is no respect for each other, no amnesty. It’s disappointing to see two adults acting in such a way. Both are living in their own type of denial, causing them to repeat a vicious cycle instead of making a healthy break. For me it really drove home the importance of letting go. There is absolutely no reason for two people to be so miserable.
I will not say that the demise of their marriage is solely my mother’s fault. Her husband has his fair share of issues which contributed a lot to how things played out. I will say though, that my mother was selfish and not always kind to her husband. She often took him for granted and treated his affection ungraciously, as though she were entitled . There were times where she put him down or made him feel badly about himself and several years of such treatment made him bitter and cold towards her. My mother is not known for being very nurturing but I don’t judge her for this. She carries her own painful experiences that have made her the way she is. The thing is, in the past, others have often attempted to point these things out to her but she never wanted to acknowledge her flaws. She would simply continue to treat those closest to her poorly, confident in knowing that her friends and family would never abandon her. But her behavior was often hurtful and lacked boundaries. She began alienating people and slowly those closest to her pulled away, keeping their distance until she had no one left. It wasn’t until that point that she finally decided to examine her actions and work on improving her behavior and how she responded to others. She’s getting better, but a lot of work and time is required before she will be able to fully repair the relationships she’s damaged.
People don’t remember you by what you do for them. People remember you by how you treated them, how you made them feel. Sadly the one’s closest to us are the ones we most often take for granted. True love is never conditional but there is not a love in the world that will withstand being neglected and mistreated. Eventually, it dries up. What my mother has taught me is that one should never take their relationships with others for granted. The people who love and support you should be appreciated and treated graciously because there may come a time when they will leave you and it should never be a situation where you don’t appreciate something until it’s no longer there.
As far as my mother, losing her husband was a huge wake up call for her though it’s tragic that it took something so drastic to get her to see the part she was playing in the destruction of her relationships. My mother has a very long pattern of similar endings but for the first time in her life she’s beginning to understand her patterns and take responsibility. Her experience has been a very valuable lesson for me, and I thank her for it.